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Ukrainian natural gas demand slumps

KIEV, Ukraine, Nov. 13 (UPI) -- Ukrainian Energy Minister Eduard Stavytsky said Wednesday his country needed less natural gas than expected because of lower demand.

Stavytsky said Ukrainian energy company Naftogaz has enough gas on hand to keep domestic needs satisfied through the end of the year without imports from Russia.

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"The demand for gas is almost 45 percent lower than Naftogaz had planned," RIA Novosti quoted him as saying.

The Russian news agency said he attributed the lower demand to warmer weather in Ukraine.

Naftogaz said it secured 113 billion cubic feet of natural gas from Russian energy company Gazprom in October and has stopped the gas imports for the rest of the year.

Contractual disputes between Ukraine and Gazprom prompted Russia in 2009 to cut off natural gas supplies and Ukraine says it's paying more for Russian gas than its regional counterparts under the terms of a deal that broke the impasse. In early November, Gazprom said Ukraine had more than $880 million in unsettled debt from its August natural gas bills.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych said a $10 billion shale natural gas deal signed last week with U.S. energy company Chevron would make his country energy independent by 2020.

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